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Garthia Elena Burnett: Even a good marriage has bumps along the way


Garthia Elena Burnett



Someone once told me, "Getting married isn''t for the faint of heart." 


Three years and lots of (figurative) bumps and bruises later, I know exactly what he meant. 


But through good times and bad, however many years may pass us by, we remain promised to each other. 


The city''s union to its mayor is different; we put him in office for four years and are allowed the opportunity to then kick him out if we so choose. 


In marriage, theoretically, you''re in it for the long haul, for better or worse, ''til death -- sometimes even if it comes to blows. 


The mayor of Columbus'' literal blows exchanged with, or just offered to, Councilman Kabir Karriem at City Hall April 1 have garnered calls for both to resign. 


What really happened, only a select few know. But we do know this: There are no innocent victims here. Both men were active participants. 


It''s a far cry from the celebration of victory resonating throughout the city when she elected her first black mayor in 2006. 


Smith promised unity, racial reconciliation and to be the "mayor for all the citizens of Columbus," starting to deliver almost immediately on those promises. 


Karriem''s run for councilman was an easy victory. 


He won effortlessly over Kenneth McFarland in the primary and won a strong victory over Jay Jordan in the general election. 


The win electrified him and much of his ward; he had widespread support. 


Now, hopes of one day running for mayor could be dashed in what will be remembered as one of the most embarrassing moments for Possum Town. 


Decision-making between our elected leaders should never be handled with fists. Were they working for a private company and started brawling at the office, both men might be out of a job. 


In this case, Karriem, the next day filed assault charges against the mayor, prepared for an ugly he-said, he-said bout in court. 


Three days later, the councilman continued to wage war against Smith, accusing him in a press conference of being a "playground bully" and running the city by intimidation. 


Smith, apparently provoked by the accusations and media attention, then pressed his own charges against Karriem. 


There were several points at which all this could have been avoided. 


Mistake 1 Wrong Time: Karriem went to see Smith at 9 o''clock at night; he was looking for a confrontation, maybe not physical, but confrontation nonetheless. 


Mistake 2 Wrong Approach: Harsh words and body language usually foster and excite more of the same. 


Mistake 3 Wrong Action: Finger or no finger, decisions-making for the people who put you into office -- or most anything else aside from boxing matches -- should never be settled with fists.  


Mistake 4 Wrong Reaction: Making such serious public accusations and pressing simple assault charges only added fuel to the fire. Both men looked to be in good condition Monday, with no bumps or bruises to show for their tussling. 


So, mistakes made, they should have worked out their differences behind closed doors, sitting down and listening to each other like grown-ups. 


Even with repeated public apologies, dropping the charges and the agreement not to bash each other to the press, the damage is done. 


The city''s relationships with both men are tarnished. 


The wise man Solomon said, "He who finds a wife, finds a good thing." 


The city''s marriage to Robert Smith has been a good one, overall. 


He''s worked to beautify the downtown area and supported efforts to clean the streets of Columbus of gangs.  


But his time espoused to the Lowndes County seat has been marred by this scar that may never heal. 


Karriem made a strong start as councilman, eager to learn and ready to make changes to better the city. He saw through the addition of a police substation near Sim Scott Park and continues to encourage pursuit of big-name retailers. 


In our marriage, my husband, Micah, and I try to be forgiving. We have no choice. Both of us are so far from perfect.  


And there are some deal breakers in the contract, of course -- just as there are for Columbus'' husband and its groomsmen. 


For many, the latest of the Columbus Follies are deal breaker enough. 


I hope one day, when we''re old and gray, my husband can say, despite the rough patches, he agrees with Solomon and truly did find a good thing. 


What will the fair Friendly City say about its groom?



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Reader Comments

Article Comment KJ commented at 4/13/2010 11:15:00 AM:

Columbus is saying, if we're going to discipline and/or fire police and firemen for infractions that amount to little more than embarrassing the city (and I believe we should) then we should force elected politicians to live up to those standards. I think it's pretty clear that these two "men" will not prove to be that honorable. Hopefully the voters will be. We don't need politicians learning the lesson that "the rules don't apply to me." Next thing you know you've got people running around committing crimes that the police won't investigate and that the DA won't prosecute even if the police did.

Give 'em the boot now, or at the first opportunity if they refuse to do the honorable thing.


Article Comment Thom Geiger commented at 4/13/2010 11:35:00 AM:

I agree with you KJ. How do the two reconcile their harsh treatment of city employees with the wrist slap they and the council have given them?
Garthia, how many marriage comparisons are there in this piece? If it is a valid analogy, then what should be the citizens' reaction to the equivalent of domestic abuse? Too many young people already think domestic abuse is an okay way to handle conflicts in relationships and who do we have to thank for that public perception? Us as parents, us as voters for not reacting strongly to the violence and holding officials to the same standards they use to judge others under their direction and, finally, the press and the media.
It's a constant that we see anti-abuse public service programs in local media, but what happens when the violators are high public officials who are well liked and many of us voted for? Nothing much. Is it any wonder, with the treatment given the problem by the press when a real situation comes up, that so many victims of violence feel reporting the crime won't do them any good, or at worst, would cause them more problems than they already have?
We can say physical violence is not acceptable under any circumstances, but it's our actions that tell the real story. A kiss and a handshake don't cut it and any hint that it makes everything okay again is not a rational or sane way to handle the offense.


Article Comment Lori commented at 4/13/2010 11:37:00 AM:

Throwing fists is a deal breaker in both a marriage and city government. They should be gone.


Article Comment walter commented at 4/13/2010 2:17:00 PM:

It is very encouraging and and a very welcoming site to see and read Mrs. Burnett's submission to The Dispatch.

Our mayor and council are chosen through periodic elections. I, for one, would vote to return each of them to their respective offices if the elction was to be held today or next year or the year after. In elcting them to lead in their respective positions, my support for them stems from the fact that I do not know another Tom, Dick, Lori, KJ, Walter or anyone else, within or outside the city who is more qualified to serve in the capacity in which they now serve the city, dispite their temporary meltdown, out of the public view.

What and who needs to be gone are those who would like to see intelligent men and women, of African descent, serving as subordinates, instead of in leadership positions. Detractors want Mayor Smith out because they know that it will be a cold day in hell before another one can garner the necessary support to win the office in the future. Councilman Karriem's rash conduct, probably, but not absolutely, has negated his hopes of winning the mayor's office. Oponents of change know that they can more easily defeat African Americans in the race for mayor than they can one who seeks the council seat representing the 5th. That is why they were pushing Hon. Karriem to challenge Mayor Smith. Unfortunately, he fell prey to their tactic, divide and conquer. Once he eliminated Mr. Smith, he would have discovered much to late, he (Karriem) wasn't really their choice for mayor afterall. They saw him as only a tool to remove Mayor Smith, either by splitting the voters, or, by provoking him into an embarrassing confrontation, which, ironically, could only be achieved by bringing embarrassment upon himself, as well. Of course, instigators didn't care about either. What they cared about was removing Mayor Smith, by any means necessary.


Article Comment Thom Geiger commented at 4/13/2010 2:55:00 PM:

Walter, I really do mean this with much humor intended;
when you reach the perigee in your orbit and are closest to the rest of us on planet Earth, please give a shout out.
I've been told many times that I am long winded and people don't understand my messages. I am glad to see I am not the only one who fits that description.


Article Comment DANNY commented at 4/13/2010 9:40:00 PM:

Hey Walter: You may not be playing with a FULL DECK but you have a fist full of RACE CARDS!


Article Comment walter commented at 4/14/2010 12:23:00 PM:

You're right. God freed me from "orbit" that you thought you had assigned me and others like me, a long, long time ago, Thom. I, and others like me, have broken free of not only the chains to our wrists and ankles, we have found freedom from the chains you attempted to place on or minds. To better enable you to overcome your frustration about our freedom, know this: We do seek to harm or hurt you or anyone else because of your race or sexual orientation. In order to secure our own freedom, it just so happens we're also committed to helping you to break the chains that your ancestors also placed upon you and your friends!

When it is possible to discuss complex matters and attempt to reach as broad an audience as possible with few words, I'll do so. Since I write, not to score points, or to get a rise out of others, but instead, to challenge us all to strive for a higher plane or level, I am more verbose than perhaps you, or some other, need. I'm not interested in just communicating with a smart fellow like you. I, at first, thought I would also try to communicate with an idiot, such as Danny. Now, I know better!


Article Comment walter commented at 4/14/2010 12:27:00 PM:

Give the difficulty some have with recognizing obvious typos or omission, please know that the correct statement above should read: We do NOT seek to harm...because of your race or sexual orientation.


Article Comment Thom Geiger commented at 4/14/2010 12:43:00 PM:

@Walter; "Thom. I, and others like me, have broken free of not only the chains to our wrists and ankles, we have found freedom from the chains you attempted to place on or minds."

Walter, you know absolutely nothing about me, my family, my "fore-parents" or mine or their politics or beliefs. To publicly say that you do is a public lie. I think that reveals more about you and your character than anything else you could write or post to this web site. From here on out, I will read your messages with that lie in mind.


Article Comment james commented at 4/14/2010 2:06:00 PM:

Man, Walter you have a big problem. If you are just now getting rid of the chains you must be an old coot. I am hard pressed to understand the hate you have in your heart. I truly feel sorry for someone that carries that type of load. Peace be with you and may you find the "freedom" you are looking for.


Article Comment walter commented at 4/14/2010 2:11:00 PM:

Quite the contrari, Thom. Your reference to comments I've made that draws upon the past and accurately reflect both recent and current racial attitudes within the city, county and state tell me exactly who and what you are. Unless, of course, your comments do not reflect what you really believe. In which case, you tell a "public lie" which, as to be respected, produces a distorted response from all who read what you've written. So, read what I write, with that in mind, Thom.

I'm a white man and for some reason you think I have no write to express the views of many of my African American friends. Go figure. I don't have to, I know that 2/3 of the men killed in Philadephia in the 60's were white men, who, like myself, joined with African Americans to defeat segregated lunch counters and public transportation. I know that the whites who joined the blacks were attacked as viciously, if not more, by the white mobs in Mississippi. I know that you'll do the same to me, even in 2010 for daring to or having the audacity to support, in the small way that I can, two or three black elected-officials who are being unmercifully attacked by whites who have a better command of the english language and have learned to express themselves in writing better than their fellow black residents and citizens. I'm trying to level the playing the field. Unfortunately, with so many other responsibilities, it is difficult to always proof my writing for submitting it. But, you're an intelligent fellow, Thom. You can comprehend my points, despite the grammatical errors contained therein and the mispelled words, can't you, Thom?


Article Comment walter commented at 4/14/2010 2:22:00 PM:

James, then you obviously feel really, really sorry for the people whose hatred for the mayor and councilman that is being expressed here. I back my views with historical facts. I seek reconciliation and ask that we be honest in dealing with each other and the issues we face. If that makes me an old coot, then an old coot I'll be, instead of a snotty-nosed, green behind the ears, pretender!

If you feel sorry for my "hatred" how do you feel about the Tea Party members and what they did to Rep. John Lewis and Pres. Obama? Surely, you read their posts here and you watch t.v. have you expressed your disdain about those two items? If not, then start with people you know. Many of yur friends are in the Party. Tell them how sorry you feel for the hatred they're expressing, james.


Article Comment Thom Geiger commented at 4/14/2010 2:27:00 PM:

[Quote Walter:] "Quite the contrari, Thom. Your reference to comments I've made that draws upon the past and accurately reflect both recent and current racial attitudes within the city, county and state tell me exactly who and what you are."

Again, you make a claim and you post nothing specific. What reference to what comments? What is it that I posted that tells you exactly who and what I am? You have no idea what my views are on race, religion, politics, life, death or anything else.
A careful person would refrain from characterizing people they know little to nothing about, and especially refrain from posting what other people think or how they feel.
FYI, you're in deep waters here Walter. The fact that you know nothing about me or my family can come back on you in a public forum. The same with anything you post about anyone or their family that is not your own.


Article Comment headscratcher commented at 4/15/2010 6:25:00 AM:

Uh, Missy Ma'am, if the husband of this union you compare the fight to, were to smack the wife, the aforementioned husband would be his azz in jail. The husband in your story is laughing it off and attending a "Unity Picnic" instead.

White-wash that all you want, it is still a person who committed a crime in public, disturbing the peace IN PUBLIC, and now the powers that be are doing their best to bury that particular cat turd under as much kitty-litter as it can.


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